Texas abortion regs upheld on appeal
AUSTIN, Texas (BP) -- A Texas law regulating abortions may take effect as drafted, the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans ruled on Thursday (Oct. 31), stating that challenges to the law's constitutionality likely would fail. The ruling likely will force the closure of 12 or 13 Texas abortion clinics, according to abortion provider Planned Parenthood.
The decision -- by a three-judge panel of women on the appellate court -- reverses an Oct. 28 ruling by a U.S. district judge who declared a provision in House Bill 2 that an abortion doctor have hospital privileges within 30 miles of his practice unconstitutional. Judge Lee Yeakel also partially blocked the law's more stringent guidelines for how the abortion drug RU-486 is administered.
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, a 2014 gubernatorial candidate, said in a statement, "This unanimous decision is a vindication of the careful deliberation by the Texas Legislature to craft a law to protect the health and safety of Texas women."
"God is so good," said Kyleen Wright, president of Texans for Life.
The three-judge panel -- Jennifer Walker Elrod, Priscilla R. Owen and Catharina Haynes -- acknowledged "a substantial likelihood that the State will prevail in its argument that Planned Parenthood failed to establish an undue burden on women seeking abortions or that the hospital-admitting-privileges requirement creates a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion… We also conclude that the State has made a strong showing of likelihood of success on the merits, at least in part, as to its appeal of the injunction pertaining to medication abortions," namely the use of mifepristone (RU-486) and misoprostol.
Wright said she believes the decision will have a significant impact on the state's abortion industry. According to information from the Oct. 28 district court hearing, clinics in Lubbock, Killeen, Waco, McAllen, Fort Worth and possibly Dallas will cease providing abortions because their staff physicians do not have admitting privileges.
The Fort Worth Women's Whole Health Clinic, which opened in June, meets all standards outlined in HB 2 with the exception of the physician privileges provision, even though the clinic sits across the street from a hospital.
The clinics could close temporarily and reopen when their doctors become compliant. But, Wright said, they might not be able to recover from the loss of revenue generated by abortions.
The pro-choice organization NARAL called the decision "devastating." NARAL retweeted a post from Planned Parenthood, "Abortion providers in #Texas are cancelling their patients' appointments: 'It's a sad and dark day.'"
In a report by Dallas CBS affiliate KTVT, Marva Sadler with the Whole Women's Health Clinic in Fort Worth, said, "Those who were scheduled to come in Friday had to be notified about the last-minute change. We called a total of 15 patients this morning and, of those 15 patients, 14 of them agreed that they're going to be forced to be mothers."
While social media feeds from pro-choice advocates decried the decision, there was one notable exception.
The Twitter feed for Wendy Davis, Abbott's presumed Democrat opponent in the governor's race, was conspicuously silent following the ruling. In July, Davis stood for an 11-hour filibuster in a failed attempt to stop the pro-life legislation. She received national notoriety for her efforts and joined forces with NARAL and Planned Parenthood in their "Stand with Texas Women" campaign fighting to maintain the late-term abortion standards.
According to the Think Progress website, Amy Hagstrom Miller, president of Whole Women's Health and owner of five abortion clinics, said, "We have regressed backwards about 30 years." Three of her clinics were forced to close Friday, she claimed.
"It's a big financial hit for her," Wright said.
Planned Parenthood, the primary complainant named in the suit against the State of Texas, could appeal the 5th Circuit Court's ruling to the Supreme Court, but Wright said she thought that remains doubtful.
Bonnie Pritchett is a correspondent for the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.